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Do you want to visit Bryce Canyon in winter? As a Utah local, I made this travel guide to help you plan the perfect trip to Bryce – one of America’s top national parks! Winter travel adds an extra challenge, but it’s totally worth it because Bryce Canyon in winter is a spectacular experience. Let’s get started!
Bryce Canyon was the first national park that I visited when I moved to Utah about 9 years ago. I’ve since visited many times in different seasons and must say, winter is my favorite.
Why Visit Bryce Canyon in the Winter?
Bryce Canyon is a very popular national park. It’s also a relatively small national park, which means that in the peak season (spring through fall) the park and surrounding area can get really crowded.
In the winter, the crowds are nowhere to be found. Bryce Canyon in winter is much quieter, which I love. But visiting in the winter isn’t just to avoid the crowds – you also get to see the incredible contrast between the red rock hoodoos (the main geological feature Bryce Canyon is known for) and the white snow.
That alone is worth the visit. The fact that the park isn’t too crowded in the winter is honestly just a bonus!
Lastly, there are actually a lot of fun activities to do in the park in the winter months. We’ll go over the possibilities below!
Typical Winter Weather – Does it snow in Bryce Canyon National Park?
Yes! If you visit Bryce Canyon in winter, expect to see some snow!
A common misconception about Utah travel in the desert is that it’s warm and sunny all the time. Bryce Canyon actually sits at a higher elevation (about 8,000 ft) and the winter weather is cold and snowy.
While the amount of snow that the park receives does vary from year to year, you need to be prepared for winter travel.
In Bryce, winter can arrive in the fall months. One year, I was driving home from Bryce in September and I got caught in an intense snowstorm! Always check the weather and current conditions before your trip.
Average Temperatures in the Winter Months:
|Bryce Canyon NP:||Oct.||Nov.||Dec.||Jan.||Feb.||Mar.|
|Average High (°F)||58||45||36||37||38||45|
|Average Low (°F)||32||23||15||15||17||23|
As you can see in the chart above, the temperatures can get really cold, especially once the sun goes down!
Average Snowfall in Bryce Canyon:
|Bryce Canyon NP:||Oct.||Nov.||Dec.||Jan.||Feb.||Mar.|
|Average Snowfall (inches)||3||10||14||17||18||17|
How do I get to Bryce Canyon National Park?
Bryce Canyon is about a 4-hour drive from Salt Lake City, Utah, and just over 4 hours from Las Vegas, Nevada.
Those are the two closest major airports. If you have to fly, you’ll also likely need to plan to rent a vehicle.
Winter Road Closures:
There are only two roads that are closed to vehicle traffic for the entire winter season – the 1-mile road leading to Fairyland Point and the 0.3-mile road leading to Paria View, however, these roads remain accessible for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
Following snowstorms, the main park road closes temporarily at mile marker 3 to allow snow plow crews to clear snow from the higher elevations of the park’s scenic southern drive.
Closures typically last a day or more, depending on snowstorm durations, but they can certainly last longer.
Luckily, the Bryce Amphitheater area is along the first 3 miles of the main road and is the first area to be plowed. It remains accessible even during temporary closures on the rest of the scenic drive.
The Bryce Amphitheater area includes popular viewpoints such as Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point.
Winter in Bryce Canyon Map
The map below can be used for reference through this post:
Bryce Canyon facilities in Winter
Visitors Center – With the exception of major holidays, the Visitor Center remains open in the winter months, however, they do close at 4:30 pm.
Campgrounds – The North Campground remains open year-round, but Sunset Campground closes each winter from November to April. Note: The North Campground RV Dump Station closes in winter.
General Store – The General Store at Sunrise Point closes in winter.
The Lodge at Bryce Canyon – This is the only lodge actually inside the park and it’s closed for the winter. See below for more information on lodging and on where to stay.
Restrooms – You’ll find restrooms throughout the park, however, some are closed for the winter season. The following restrooms remain OPEN in the winter: Rainbow Point, Farview Point, Sunset Point, the Visitor Center, and North Campground.
Where to Stay at Bryce Canyon in Winter
One of the benefits of visiting Bryce in the winter is that the surrounding town is much less busy and therefore lodging is a lot cheaper!
The only option actually inside the park in winter is the North Campground. While I love to camp, camping in the middle of the winter at 8,000 feet isn’t for me. Luckily, just outside of the park border in Bryce Canyon City, there are plenty of lodging options.
The name Bryce Canyon City is a little deceiving here because in no way is it a city. It’s basically just some hotels and gas.
There’s a very small selection of groceries and a gear shop at the Ruby Inn, but that’s about it. I wouldn’t count on buying much in town. Plan and pack all your provisions before you get there.
Lodges and Hotels Nearby
The two main options in Bryce Canyon City are the Ruby Inn and the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel (both operated by Best Western Plus).
There are plenty of other options as you drive further from the park or down the pass to the little town of Tropic, Utah.
We usually stay at the Ruby Inn and enjoy the pool and hot tub in the evening and the buffet breakfast in the morning!
Things to do in Bryce Canyon in winter
1. Hiking & Snowshoeing
This is my favorite way to experience Bryce in the winter! There’s something so peaceful about hiking in the snow through the hoodoos, especially after fresh snowfall.
After a big snowfall, most of the parks day hiking trails will require snowshoes, but after a few days of use, the trails become so well-packed and icy that snowshoes are no longer useful and you’ll need a traction device such as microspikes for your hiking boots.
You’ll need to be prepared to adjust depending on the conditions. The trails can be very icy, and with steep sections and drop-offs along the hike, you need to make sure you’re not slipping all over the place!
Even paved areas and parking lots can be slippery, so make sure to be extra careful when you’re hiking. Traction devices can be purchased at the bookstore in the Visitors Center if you forget to pack them.
Seasonal Trail Closures:
There are only two trails that close for the entire winter season: the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop Trail due to extreme rockfall danger and the Rim Trail between Inspiration Point and Bryce Point due to snow overhangs along the steep cliffs.
Ranger-led Snowshoe Program:
If you want to try snowshoeing, but you don’t have your own snowshoes, you can join a ranger-led snowshoe hike! No experience is required and snowshoes and poles are available for free for those who sign up. It’s a great way to try something new.
The snowshoe program usually lasts about 2 hours and is approximately 1 mile. You’ll need appropriate winter clothing and shoes. They also offer full-moon snowshoe hikes on rare occasions when the moon and weather are just right!
Registration is required and when snow depth and weather permit, sign-ups will be at the Visitors Center the day of the program beginning at 8 am. No advance sign-up or reservations are available. There is no fee for this activity.
My 4 Favorite Winter Hiking Trails in Bryce Canyon
1) The Rim Trail:
Walk the rim of the scenic Bryce Amphitheater! This is a great place to start if you want to see incredible views, but don’t want to go on a strenuous hike or stray too far from the car. The walk from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point and back is a great one.
2) Mossy Cave:
This is a short (less than a mile round trip) walk up to a mossy grotto that fills with icicles in winter! This is one of the most crowded trailheads in the park. I think that the waterfall is a little underwhelming in the winter, but the hike out to it is beautiful.
3) The road out the Fairyland Point:
This road is closed to cars during the winter, but it makes a great place to snowshoe, hike, or cross-country ski. It’s only about 1 mile out to Fairyland Point and mostly flat. When I went, the road was graded so we didn’t need the snowshoes. We were the only ones at the viewpoint and it was beautiful! We even saw a circular rainbow! How incredible.
4) Queens Garden to Two Bridges Loop:
This is by far the most popular winter trail in the park, but be warned – this is a strenuous hike with lots of elevation gain at the end! You can hike this trail in either direction however clockwise is recommended. The Queens Garden trail starts at Sunrise Point where you’ll descend into the hoodoo-filled canyon. You’ll come up the canyon on the Two Bridges trail to Sunset Point.
Make sure you leave time and energy for this accent because it will be challenging. Remember, the rim of Bryce Canyon sits around 8,000 ft, so not only are you dealing with hiking uphill, but you’re also dealing with hiking at high elevation. Once you hike up and out of the canyon via the Two Bridges trail, you’ll connect the loop by hiking back along the rim trail to Sunrise Point.
2. Scenic Overlooks
There are many scenic overlooks throughout the park. From the fee station, the road into the park goes for about 18 miles. The first 3 miles are open and plowed first in winter, but the rest of the road is only open when the weather permits. Luckily, there is a lot to see within the first 3 miles of the drive.
The most easily accessible scenic overlooks are:
- Sunset Point – look for Thors Hammer at this overlook!
- Inspiration Point
- Bryce Point
If the road is open past the 3-mile mark then these are some other points of interest to check out:
- Natural Bridge
- Rainbow Point
3. Cross Country Skiing
Yet another way to explore Bryce Canyon national park is on cross-country skis! You cannot ski off the rim into the canyon, it’s illegal, also probably pretty dangerous, but there are plenty of routes above the rim.
Popular cross-country ski areas are:
- Bristlecone Loop Trail
- Paria Ski Loop
- Paria View Road (closed in winter to cars)
- Fairyland Point Road (closed in winter to cars)
In addition to these areas in the park, Bryce Canyon City also maintains miles of groomed ski trails to explore.
Snowshoe and Cross-country Ski Rentals:
Snowshoes and cross-country skis are available for rental outside the park at the Ruby’s Inn Winter Activity Center in Bryce Canyon City.
Did you know that Bryce Canyon National Park has International Dark Sky status? It has some of the darkest skies in the country due to the high elevation, clean air, and remote location.
In the Winter on a clear night, you can see the dimmer outer arms of the Milky Way galaxy. Since nighttime temperatures are very cold, it’s best to view the sky from Sunset Point or Inspiration Point so you can stay close to the car and retreat if you start to get too cold!
5. Bryce Canyon Winter Festival
The Ruby Inn hosts the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival every year. It’s a family-friendly event with tons of activities, crafts, seminars, and more!
Bryce Canyon Winter Travel Tips and Preparation
- Is your vehicle capable and prepared for winter road conditions such as snow and ice? The roads can be snowy and slippery. If you’re renting a vehicle, you might want to consider a vehicle that can handle winter road conditions.
- There’s very limited cell service in the park. I always make sure to have emergency supplies in my car. While you’ll probably never be too far from other people in Bryce, it’s always a good idea to be self-reliant and prepared should you have to stay out longer than expected.
- Dress appropriately for winter. Even if you’re just planning to visit the viewpoint and never stray too far from the car, it’s always good practice to be prepared with proper clothing. Plus, it will make your time outside so much more enjoyable. Dress in layers. It’s so much better to have extra clothes in the car that you don’t need than not enough clothes. Being cold and miserable is a quick way to ruin a trip.
- Pack extra water and snacks in the car. There are very few places to buy food in and around the park. I always pack all my own snacks and have a cooler in the car with lunch. The last time I visited the park, I packed tuna salad and made sandwiches for lunch in the car. Packing some bread, cheese, and lunch meat is another easy lunch idea. This is also a great way to save money because the food options that are available in Bryce Canyon City can be expensive.
- Pets are only permitted on paved surfaces in the park. They are not allowed on trails or unpaved viewpoints or in public buildings such as the visitor’s center. They must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times. They also can’t be left in the vehicle while you hike. Due to these rules, it’s best that you leave your pets at home when visiting Bryce Canyon. If you’re looking for similar red rock and hoodoos. The nearby Red Canyon has some dog-friendly trails. This is a beautiful area with many great hikes.
What to pack for Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter
Proper Winter Clothing:
Firstly, in general, you want to dress in layers – base layer, mid layer, and outer layer. This will allow you to adjust as needed throughout the day.
Secondly, your layers should be moisture-wicking. Wool clothing is the gold standard when it comes to your base layers. In other words, cotton should NOT be worn in the winter. Wool clothing comes in different weights depending on the conditions and warmth that you need.
After you have a base layer, you can think about mid-layers – things like fleece, or synthetic-fill jackets. Lastly, your outer layers are all about wind and water protection.
Make sure you also have gloves, a neck gaiter (I love this wool one), and a hat.
Hypothermia is a very really possibility and danger when traveling to Bryce Canyon in winter. Being prepared with proper clothing, layers, and gear is so important.
Proper footwear is also really important. Your gym sneakers are not good winter footwear. I have the Oboz Bridger winter hiking boots and they are amazing! They’re so warm and comfortable. I wear them all winter long. Make sure to pair these with some good moisture-wicking socks.
Traction for your boots – As I mentioned above, you’ll need some traction devices for your shoes because the trails, parking lots, and walkways can be really snowy or icy. I use microspikes and love them. They’re really easy to take on and off and work so well, especially on icy walkways!
My winter hiking boots:
These Oboz Bridger boots are the best winter hiking boots I’ve ever tried! They’re so warm and so comfortable. Highly recommend.
If you’re going to hike, even just a little, you must make sure you have all your winter hiking gear including the essential systems for day hiking. Too many people hit the trails unprepared.
In addition to all my hiking gear, in the winter months, I love to pack something warm like a mug full of hot coffee, cocoa, or bone broth to sip on during the hike.
Hiking is not something that you should decide to do on a whim in the park. Spend some time planning and preparing for the activities you want to do.
It’s important to note that there’s much less daylight when hiking in the winter. You want to make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to hike so you’re not stuck out in the dark.
Possible Bryce Canyon 1-Day Itinerary
Bryce is a small park and if you only have one day, don’t worry because you can see and do a lot in one day! Here’s what I would do:
- Try to wake up early. In the winter, sunrise is around 7:45 am. Fill up the coffee mugs with hot coffee, bundle up, and head out to the viewpoints. Start at Bryce Point followed by Inspiration Point.
- If you’re planning to hike, I would re-group late morning, have some food and pack up your gear to head out for a hike.
- If you’re looking for a solid hike that goes down into the hoodoos, hike the Queen’s Garden to Two Bridges loop. This typically takes about 2-3 hours.
- If you want an easier shorter hike, try hiking or cross-country skiing on the road out to Fairyland Point. This hike is about 2 miles round trip and mostly flat. The viewpoint is beautiful and we didn’t see any other people.
- After the hike, get some food and perhaps head to Sunset Point for photos and sunset. In the winter, sunset is around 5:30 pm. After that, head back to the hotel in Bryce Canyon City for dinner and a dip in the hotel hot tub!
More Utah Travel Guides from a Local
Bryce Canyon National Park is close to the very popular Zion National Park. Many people choose to see them both on the same road trip.
Below you’ll find my Zion resources and other Utah travel guides for activities nearby that you might want to consider adding to your trip: